By Manuel Valdes Associated Press
SEATTLE — Police used “flash-bang” percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle facility Monday evening as part of a national effort to disrupt West Coast port traffic.
Officers moved in after Occupy Seattle protesters tried to set up a makeshift barrier near the entrances to Terminal 5 and Terminal 18, using scraps of wood, aluminum debris and any other material they could scrape together.
Earlier, police reported “multiple” arrests at Terminal 18 after about 100 Occupy protesters stopped traffic for about 20 minutes.
After the grenades went off, the protesters scattered, with many wiping their faces and retreating from the area.
The Seattle group had marched several miles from a downtown shopping area. The activity snarled nearby traffic during the Monday evening commute and caused several bus routes to be rerouted or delayed.
Charla Skaggs, Port of Seattle spokeswoman, told The Associated Press the truck gates to both terminals closed on their normal schedules Monday afternoon.
Earlier Monday, longshoremen at the Longview port went home for the day, essentially shutting down the terminal after an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Several dozen protesters in Bellingham blocked railroad tracks for much of the day.
The International Longshore &Warehouse Union sent home its Longview workers out of concern for their health and safety, spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.
“Our people are willing and able to go to work,” Sargent said.
However, Port of Longview spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg said both the port and the union decided to shut down operations. She said about 20 jobs would be affected. The port was handling one ship Monday.
Union workers would be paid for four hours of work, the union said.
The Longview rally lasted about 90 minutes and numbered about 100 people. It was among a series of coordinated Occupy Wall Street protests at the West Coast’s busiest ports. Demonstrators hoped the rallies would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.
The protests also hit terminals at ports in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., though it wasn’t immediately clear how much the shutdowns would affect operations and what the economic loss would be.
Union leadership in Washington has said they are sympathetic to the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement but don’t support Monday’s actions.
In Longview, the longshoremen’s union and the port have been engaged in a protracted labor dispute, and the union president said the Occupy movement was co-opting that fight.
“As the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, sweeps this country, there is a real danger that forces outside of the ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as their own,” ILWU president Robert McEllrath said in a statement posted on the union’s website Saturday.
Sargent said that if union workers participated in the Occupy protest, they did so as individuals, not as part of the union.